ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan has detained a top Kashmiri militant leader said to be a friend of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar (search), officials said Monday, while a raid in the eastern city of Lahore led to the arrests of two Turkish citizens and an African.
It was not immediately clear what prompted authorities to conduct the raids in Lahore and whether the men had any links with any terrorist group. In less than a month, Pakistan has arrested about 20 terror suspects, including Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani (search), a Tanzanian who had a $25 million bounty on his head for his role in the 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in east Africa.
The separate arrest of the Kashmiri militant — Maulana Fazl-ur Rahman Khalil — came ahead of counterterrorism talks this week with archrival India, officials and militants said Monday.
Khalil is the leader of Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen (search) militant group, whose members have been fighting Indian forces in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. He was taken into custody recently, said security officials.
The government banned Khalil's group after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. Although none of the members of his organization was available for comment, a senior militant from another anti-India guerrilla group said they were aware of his detention.
"We know he is in government's custody," he told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Two senior government security officials also confirmed Khalil's detention, but gave no further details.
Khalil is believed to be a friend of Taliban (search) chief Mullah Mohammed Omar, who has been on the run since his government was ousted in late 2001.
Pakistan's Geo television reported Sunday that authorities had arrested Khalil on charges he was sending militants to Afghanistan to join the Taliban.
On Monday, a government minister confirmed Khalil's arrest, but said it was not linked to "international terrorism."
Khalil has often been questioned by security agencies, but his latest detention came ahead of counterterrorism talks between Pakistan and India, whose officials are meeting in Islamabad Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss how to fight terrorism.
Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen is one of the key militant groups fighting Indian forces in Kashmir since 1989 when insurgents took arms to gain independence or merge India's part of Kashmir with Muslim Pakistan.
Kashmir is divided between Pakistan and India who have fought two out of their three wars over it since 1947 when they got independence from Britain. Both nations claim the region in its entirety.
This week's talks between Pakistan and India are part of a composite dialogue which they started last month in an effort to resolve all their disputes.